Elephants are a national icon for Thailand so it was no question that I wanted to get up close and personal with these gentle giants!
When picking a company to see and interact with elephants, it is important to do your research. Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Northern Chiang Mai is one of the most well recognized company in Thailand that rescues and rehabilitates abused elephants. ENP has created a safe haven for them to be in as natural an environment as they can be; well protected, well fed, and well taken care of.
There are several options to participate in including single day, two-day overnight, and multi-week volunteering. My bestie Lyka and I did the single day option (As of June 2017, the price was $76USD). After an early 8am pick-up from our AirBNB in Chiang Mai and a quick a 1.5 hour van ride, we made it to ENP! There were tons of people, more people than I imagined it would be. Luckily everyone is divided in groups of 10-12 and all went separate ways so it wasn't too crowded.
We started with 30 minutes or so feeding the elephants with bananas, watermelons, papayas, and pumpkins. Elephants are vegetarians!
Then we began our way around the park. The park was pretty big! Some free-range elephants, some kept in certain areas away from others (based on their behaviors). The first elephant I met was 80 years old. Her name was Champagne. She had a flower in her ear because she has a hole in her ear. The abusive way many humans train elephants to obey orders is with pain. Mahouts (elephant trainers) used a sharp hook for intimidation and pain in order for her to obey their orders. Over time, this abuse pierced right through her delicate ear with a hole that will always remind her of her abusive past. ENP rescued Champagne; she no longer gets abused.
After meeting Champagne and some of her other elephant friends, we had a delicious buffet lunch.
After lunch we walked over to the river and spent the next 30 minutes or so washing an elephant named Lucky!
It began to storm, but that was OK. It made the experience more authentic lol! So there we were walking through the open field as elephants kept passing by to say hello. They seemed to really enjoy the rain. We just watched as they interacted with each other. It was so nice to see them play around in the mud; the freedom to be the elephants that they are.
After five hours of elephant fun, our time quickly came to an end to head back to Chiang Mai. Overall, I really enjoyed my time at ENP. Although elephants are wild animals and should be in the wild where they belong, ENP provides a habitat as close to the wild as possible for them to survive and be happy. I feel confident that I supported a company that (to my knowledge) does not abuse such majestic creatures. Cheers to Champagne and her silly elephant friends!
For more information on Elephant Nature Park, you can visit their website at Elephantnaturepark.org. TIP: They are known to book up 1-2 months in advance, so if you’d like to visit ENP, book your desired date as soon as you know when you’ll be going Thailand! And whatever you do, don't ride an elephant (it hurts them)! XOXO MEL